Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer review: Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer

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MSRP: $799.99

The Good It's fun! Whether it's for gaming or movies, the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer is one of the best 3D displays on the market, with zero crosstalk. Based on OLED technology, the headset is capable of deep, deep black levels, and whether in 2D or 3D, all images have surprising amounts of depth.

The Bad The headset is heavy and becomes quite uncomfortable with extended use. It's not possible to get the whole screen in focus at once, resulting in blurring at the edges. The effects of its lower resolution are apparent: detail levels aren't up there with an equivalently priced television, and pixel structure is visible.

The Bottom Line While the Sony HMZ-T1 personal headset is capable of some of the best 3D effects I've ever seen, it's uncomfortable to wear for extended periods and images suffer from blurriness.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Back in the 1990s, giddy with the promise of this new thing called "cyberspace," video arcades around the country started birthing games with a newfangled VR (virtual reality) headset. The new games enabled players to stand in a little box that resembled a cherry picker (without crane attached) and shoot at pterodactyls and interact with blocky "Money For Nothing" characters.

Fast-forward 15 years and Sony is giving the personal 3D device a second run with its HMZ-T1 headset, just minus the VR. The HMZ-T1 was first shown off at CES 2011, where it was given the dubious nickname of Headman--you know, like Walkman. But as the Walkman had little to do with feet, I think the T1 would be more aptly named the Couchman.

Design and features
The HMZ-T1 "3D personal cinema" consists of two small OLED screens inside a big headset with built-in stereo headphones. The headset is made of two-tone plastic that would perfectly match the armor of a Storm Trooper. It's a little subtler in design than the prototype I saw at CES 2011, with just a single blue power light.

The headset weighs almost a pound at 14.8 oz, which Sony describes as "surprisingly lightweight." If you're expecting a deep-sea diving helmet, then, yes, it is surprising. The headset comes with adjustable rubber straps and a number of different cushions for people who do or don't wear spectacles, though it was still difficult to achieve a comfortable fit.

The screen boasts a resolution of 720p for both 2D and 3D, and comes with a slider that enables you to adjust the separation between the screens to account for different eye spacing. Unfortunately, the adjustment is quite coarse; I would have appreciated individual sliders for each eye.

Sony says the display is equivalent to a 150-inch screen viewed at a distance of 12 feet. I don't know what kind of palatial rooms Sony is used to lounging in, but based on our recent 4K article, a distance of 8 feet from a screen is more likely. This means that in a normal lounge room it's the equivalent of a 100-inch screen. That's still pretty big.

While there were murmurs of a battery-powered option, the headset is unfortunately tethered to a small breakout box--hence Couchman. The box has a proprietary HMD (head-mounted display) output that connects to the headset via a substantial 11.6-foot (3.5m) cord. I found that the cable was long enough for most living room setups and didn't snag when I put the headset on. The box incorporates two HDMI ports--one in and one out--and when the headset is turned off, the box acts as a video pass-through for a connected device. For added flexibility I would have liked to see the pass-through work when the device was on as well.

All of the controls are mounted on the underside of the helmet and include a four-way rocker, a Menu/OK button, power, and volume buttons. Pressing the Menu button also enables you to change picture and sound modes and adjust settings such as brightness and contrast.

The T1 could be seen as a companion to the other specialist 3D screen the company released this year, the Sony PlayStation 3D display, but having used both products for an extended period, I can say the T1 is undoubtedly better.

I found attaching the headset to be quite a challenge and with my larger-than-normal bonce, the straps were too small to give a comfortable fit. If you're prodigiously cranial, ala Megamind, then you can forget about buying this device.

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